Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I have been reading a book called, “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self.”
Author, Carl Trueman describes the gradual erosion of our western society’s Christian values, to the point where there is only one voice that modern-minded people are inclined to listen to – the voice of self.
Trueman hopes that by understanding how this shift affects us and our mission in the world, the church may be better equipped to respond to it.
Of course, listening to the wrong voices is not just a modern problem, is it? Ever since the fall of Adam and Eve, people have chosen to listen to voices other than God.
The crisis that brought about Old Testament Israel’s seventy-year exile in Babylon (which is the background to our theme verse) was a ‘crisis of listening.’
Israel had not been listening to God!
[A quick search for the words, “not listen” in the Book of Jeremiah reveals 36 times where God says his people do “not listen.”]
God tells Israel that their “not listening” has its consequences, saying, “You have not listened to me, … to your own harm.” (Jeremiah 25:7).
Concerning their return from exile God speaks to his people again, through the prophet Isaiah. He ‘speaks tenderly’ to them, and ‘comforts’ them with the good news that their punishment is over and their ‘sin is pardoned’ (Isaiah 40:1-2).
In the verse before us today, God calls his pardoned people to come to him and to listen with fresh, grace-filled ears.
He reminds them of the futility of not listening: “Don’t spend your money on what is not bread,” and your “labour on what does not satisfy” (Isaiah 55:2)!
He invites them, “Listen, listen to me! … Incline your ear and come to me; hear me!” (Isa 55:2b-3a).
He promises that their listening would be fruitful: You will ‘eat what is truly good,’ your ‘souls will delight in the richest of fare,’ and you ‘will live!’ (Isaiah 55:3).
What a message!
For us as well – because the story of our human nature is not all that different from Israel’s.
Our natures are still inclined to “not listen” to God.
We so easily listen to the voice of that ‘unholy trinity’ – the devil, the world, and the sinful self?
Like Israel, ours is also a ‘crisis of listening.’
Like Isaiah, Jesus warns of the futility of “not listening,” saying, ‘Everyone who hears my words and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand’ (Matthew 7:26).
Jesus himself is good news about a God who listens perfectly.
He heard the cries of a ‘sin-deafened’ humanity.
He sent his ‘Beloved Son’ into our world saying, ‘Listen to him!’
News of a ‘Beloved Son’ who listened perfectly to the will of his Father.
A Son who paid the ultimate price for our lack of listening and owned its consequences.
From the cross of Jesus, God ‘speaks tenderly’ to his people, comforting us with the good news that our punishment has been met and our sin is pardoned.
Like Isaiah, our resurrected Saviour calls us to listen with fresh, grace-filled ears.
“Listen, listen to me! … Incline your ear and come to me; hear me!” (Isa 55:2b-3a).
He promises that our listening will not be futile but fruitful: You will ‘eat what is truly good,’ your ‘souls will delight in the richest of fare,’ and you ‘will live!’ (Isaiah 55:3).
Jesus says, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24).
How blessed we are to have that ‘rock’; the ‘good’ and ‘life giving’ words of God, on which to build our life and mission.
Words breathed onto the pages of Scripture and into ordinary water, bread, and wine.
Words that are, “able to make [us] wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
Words that are, “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:15-17).
Words which we, as Church, confidently confess are, “the only infallible source and norm for all matters of faith, doctrine and life” (Article 2.1, LCA Constitution).
As we learn to respond to ‘the rise and triumph of the modern self’ and what that means for us and our voice in the world, let’s begin with ourselves,
- recognizing and confessing our human tendency not to listen,
- hearing the comfort of God’s pardoning grace,
- and responding with grace-filled ears, eager to “listen” to God, so that we may “eat what is truly good” and “live” (Isaiah 55:3).